The Magnificent Seven

Thankfully, Elmer Bernstein’s classical score appears at this film’s conclusion.

the-magnificent-sevenThe Magnificent Seven defines a great American western cinematic adventure. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the film directed by John Sturges in 1960, not the recent release by Director Antoine Fuqua.

Involving a stellar cast of fabulous actors that included Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Colburn, Charles Bronson and Robert Vaughn, the original was a touching film about bad guys who discovered a moral compass that led them to put their lives on the line to save a small Mexican village from being extorted by a group of renegades.

While the new film captures the same theme, three-fourths of this two hour movie was little more than one gigantic gun battle resulting in multiple deaths. Denzel Washington replaces Mr. Brynner as the leader of the “Seven”, though he is sadly little more than a poker-faced bounty hunter largely devoid of any emotion.

Though Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio are the best known actors composing Washington’s delightful henchmen, the most memorable performances are given by Martin Sensmeier, Lee Byung-Hun and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. Every scene they are in adds strength to the film, and they bring an occasional sense of humor that makes the usually funny Mr. Pratt look like a bad stand-up comic.

Ironically, I’ve never shared the criticism directed at Mr. Sturgis’ film for its alleged cliched treatment of the besieged Mexican village. On the contrary, if you are going to find fault, then direct it at Mr. Fuqua’s film. With the village now inhabited by a large group of white Americans, it was laughable that their recently widowed spokeswoman (Haley Bennett) constantly appeared in a revealing blouse for reasons that were all too obvious.

Finally, it was interesting that the strength of the two films came from the leading villains. Eli Wallach was one nasty character in the original, while Peter Sarsgaard was equally great as a heartless capitalist who viewed little people as little more than sheep waiting to be sheared. If the character he played (Bartholomew Bogue) was alive today, he would make a perfect CEO for Wells Fargo.